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New Avian Flu Vaccine Strategy Proposed
Date:10/8/2008

stockpiled vaccine.

"And considering the speed with which the pandemic might spread, even if you've got a stockpiled vaccine, it would be a challenge to use that vaccine in a two-dose strategy. But if you've got people who have been primed in advance, as we took people who were primed seven years ago, it's possible to give a single low-dose vaccine and show they get a rapid response that is reactive to all known strains."

"It's a very intriguing idea," said Ted Ross, an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research.

Ross agreed that the current strategy of giving two flu vaccine shots two weeks apart might not meet the urgent needs of a pandemic. "I believe it is going to take too long in a bird flu pandemic," he said. "Priming the population might be protective against a wide variety of H5 viruses that we know have infected humans already. The broader the protection, the better."

However, there would be financial barriers to a program that would prime a large part of the population along the lines of the Stephenson proposal, Ross noted. "Even with the currently tested vaccine, there currently is no market for vaccinating people widely," he said.

Not everyone need be primed, Stephenson said. "You would be preparing for an event that might never happen, so safety considerations would be paramount," he said. "It is unlikely that the entire population would be covered. It might be proposed to take key personnel, first responders to a pandemic. That is a potential approach that should be considered."

Even then, a single study of 24 people is not enough to prompt such a program, Stephenson noted. "It is important that larger studies be done to confirm the finding," he said.

More information

The status of avian flu vaccines is described by the Centers for Disease
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